Now we’re ALL going to play Charades

A crushed saxophone, not necessarily Bill Clinton’s

PARTY-GOERS in London lambasted Bill Clinton for throwing the “worst party ever” this week. This might not be the first time Clinton has been accused of being less entertaining than promised (outside the Oval Office at least – oo er missus), but it’s surprising all the same.

The event was a fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation’s Millennium Network, which is a rather vague outfit but seems to be all about “improving global health, strengthening economies, promoting healthier childhoods, protecting the environment and swimming with dolphins”. (Spot the bit I made up.)

Bill was there with daughter Chelsea. Also present were Princess Beatrice, Will.I.Am, Lily Cole and Gwyneth Paltrow. In other words, guests had their pick of insufferably glamorous people to be made to feel inadequate by.

So what could go wrong? Did Bill play the saxophone, or fail to play the saxophone (depending on where you stand on saxophones – personally I stand on saxophones wearing concrete boots)? Did he have that notorious buzz-killer Al Gore with him? Was he, heaven help us, handing out cigars?

Well, no. The problem was just that the revellers had to wait a long time to get in, and the room was very crowded, and a bit whiffy, and the walls appeared damp. And Clinton spoke for only a couple of minutes (which is something like that restaurant complaint that goes, “the food was terrible and there wasn’t enough of it”).

Note to self: never invite any of these people to a party: they’re obviously impossible to please. Worst party ever? Hardly. There is a near-infinite list of parties that have to be worse than the Clinton event.

There’s the average office Christmas party, for a start. Then there are hen parties, where you’re expected to laugh uproariously at chocolate willies or be thought (probably not unjustly) a prude. What about a Murder Mystery Party where someone actually got murdered? That would be a bit more of a conversation-stopper than damp walls, wouldn’t it?

For worst party ever, I nominate any party at which someone whips out a guitar and sings ‘Ride On’. (In fact any party that includes a singsong gets my vote.) Also in contention is the party hosted by a control freak, who claps her hands (I’m sorry but they’re nearly always women) and shouts, “Now we’re ALL going to play Charades.”

Other nominees: Any party where the host shows photos of their trip to Machu Picchu. Any party where there are non-drinkers, sitting there the whole evening quietly taking it all in. Any party where the hosts have clearly had a row just before you arrived, and one of them is banging pots and pans around in the kitchen with a face on them that would stop a clock. Any party that features a conga line.

Consider Kim Jong-Il’s 69th birthday party last year, when he broke with his custom of handing out gifts and the long-suffering people of North Korea got nothing? That was a bad party. You’d think if your birthday was a national public holiday, and you were the “eternal leader”, and you had so much power that you could actually control the weather, that at least you could stump up a jar of bath salts.

Maybe competitive children’s birthday parties are the worst, with parents feverishly outdoing each other on the entertainment front. Life seemed easier when no one could afford a bouncy castle and parties just meant red lemonade and something involving desiccated coconut.

But really, the worst bad party is the one you throw yourself. You invite 40 people and only ten show up. You put too much of yourself into the cooking, so that by the time the guests arrive you’re exhausted and irritable and wish they’d all go.

When you finally finish with the food preparations, you return to your guests in the sitting room, only to find that all ten have somehow ended up sitting in a wide circle, mutely listening to slow jazz.

One guest refuses the food: she never eats beef unless she actually knew the cow. You think to yourself: how did I end up inviting into my home someone for whom knowing the cow beforehand would be a good thing, rather than a bad thing?

One couple arrive late – they couldn’t find a babysitter so they brought their two-year-old with them. Having thereby ruined your party, they give it up as a dead loss and leave early to go to the pub, taking the last few interesting guests with them.

Eventually no one is left except one person whom you actively despise, who gate-crashed, and who at 4am is still there with a huge welcome for himself, drinking wine by the neck and singing ‘Wonderwall’.

Give me a conga line with the Clintons any day.

Published in the irish Mail on Sunday, 27th May 2012

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